Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chelsea Clinton's Fairytale Wedding

RHINEBECK, N.Y. — Bill and Hillary Clinton have tried to shield their daughter, Chelsea, from the gaze of the public for most of her life. But on her wedding day on Saturday, even as the Clintons sought to shroud the event in secrecy, residents and onlookers here decided they were going to celebrate along with them, invited or not.Most every girl dreams of a fairytale wedding. On Saturday, it seems as if Chelsea Clinton got hers. So despite confidentiality agreements, anonymous hotel reservations and a no-fly zone established over the area, this moneyed and normally subdued town turned into a Chelsea theme park, with shop windows filled with tributes to her, including one with a live model in a wedding dress having her makeup done. A baseball team sent its mascot, dressed up as a raccoon, parading through town with a sign asking Ms. Clinton to marry him. Teenage boys chased after former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, seeking autographs. Young women passed out slices of pizza with “I do” written in pepperoni. Caravans of guests sped by reporters who waited forlornly in a pen on the road leading to the wedding site, while, just beyond, a dozen brown milk cows chewed on dinner. At 7:23 p.m. came an announcement from the family via e-mail: Ms. Clinton was now married to Marc Mezvinsky. “Today, we watched with great pride and overwhelming emotion as Chelsea and Marc wed in a beautiful ceremony at Astor Courts, surrounded by family and their close friends,” the Clintons said. “We could not have asked for a more perfect day to celebrate the beginning of their life together, and we are so happy to welcome Marc into our family.” The former president and Mrs. Clinton, the secretary of state, also thanked Rhinebeck for its welcome and good wishes. Ms. Clinton, 30, wore a strapless gown, beaded at the waist and designed by Vera Wang (who caused a commotion of her own when she showed up in town on Saturday). The mother of the bride wore a plum-colored gown by Oscar de la Renta. The interfaith ceremony was conducted by Rabbi James Ponet and the Rev. William Shillady. Ms. Clinton is Methodist, and Mr. Mezvinsky is Jewish. It included elements from both traditions: friends and family reading the Seven Blessings, which are typically recited at traditional Jewish weddings following the vows and exchange of rings. A friend of the couple read the poem “The Life That I Have” by Leo Marks. Many of the guests were friends of the bride and groom from college and work; they both attended Stanford University, and Ms. Clinton recently received her master’s degree from Columbia University’s Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health. Family flew in, too. The president’s half-brother, Roger Clinton, was spotted in town in a T-shirt and track pants hours before the wedding. Marie Clinton Bruno, a cousin of the president’s, reminisced about a 10-year-old Chelsea appearing as a bridesmaid at her own wedding, which was held at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock, Ark., in 1990. That day, Chelsea wore a pale pink dress with ruffles on the shoulders and tended to the artificial flowers in the bride’s bouquet. “She was just a wonderful bridesmaid,” Ms. Bruno said. “She’s just as wonderful today as she was back then.” As she strolled through Rhinebeck, Ms. Bruno spoke approvingly of the location: “It reminds me of the Ozarks in Arkansas, except more chic.” President Clinton appeared to have followed his daughter’s instructions and lost quite a bit of weight for the ceremony. She had ordered him to lose 15 pounds, but people close to him said he had actually lost more than 20. While the media and local residents have been buzzing for months about celebrities who were expected here — including Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg and John Major, the former British prime minister — none of those particular bold-faced names were invited. Still, there was star power: One of the most prominent guests was Vernon Jordan, a longtime confidant of Mr. Clinton’s and a family friend. But he was not generally recognized by the gawkers here as he strode into a cocktail reception Friday night. One man in the crowd authoritatively identified him as Hamilton Jordan, who was a top aide to former President Jimmy Carter and who died in 2008. Another man in the crowd declared that Vernon Jordan was actually Warren Buffett. The media pack surrounded the actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, who are married, with the force of a sudden summer storm. “We must be the only celebrities in town,” Mr. Danson said. “I’m sorry.” Linda Ennis, a Clinton fan who drove more than an hour in hopes of glimpsing the former president and possibly the bride, seemed star-struck about Ms. Clinton. Like many here, she said she had watched Ms. Clinton grow up, then compared her grace to that of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. “She’s turned into such a beauty,” Ms. Ennis said. “It’s royalty,” her friend, Arlene Newman, added. “It’s our royalty.” Photos released by the Clintons showed the former president looking solemn as he walked his daughter down an aisle created by rows of white chairs against a backdrop of arched windows and columns that evoked the White House. They also showed Ms. Clinton bursting with joy at several moments during the ceremony. Jim Valli and his band provided music at the reception (the couple’s good friend Tim Blane and his band played at the rehearsal dinner). The reception was catered by the St. Regis Hotel (the rehearsal dinner by Blue Ribbon Restaurants). La Tulipe Desserts made the gluten-free wedding cake. Mr. Mezvinsky, an investment banker at 3G Capital Management and a son of two former Democratic members of Congress, proposed to Ms. Clinton over Thanksgiving weekend, and the pair released a statement to friends joyfully wishing them a happy Thanksgiving and telling them about their wedding plans. The couple lives in a three-bedroom apartment on Lower Fifth Avenue in New York with views of Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building; Mr. Mezvinsky bought the apartment in 2008 for $4 million. Maureen Missner, whose shop, Paper Trail, was believed to be helping to prepare the gift bags, said this wedding felt different from one last year in the area, when the actor Griffin Dunne was married and residents spotted stars like Hugh Jackman. She said that comparing it to Mr. Dunne’s wedding put these festivities into perspective. “This is not a star-studded wedding,” Ms. Missner said. “This is clearly about the bride and groom.”

Pakistan floods; 900 dead...Pakistanis criticize government response to floods

Rescue workers struggled Sunday to save more than 27,000 people still trapped by massive flooding in Pakistan's northwest that has killed over 900 people and destroyed thousands of homes, officials said.The effort has been aided by a slackening of the monsoon rains that have caused the worst flooding in decades in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province. But as flood waters have started to recede, authorities have begun to understand the full scale of the disaster. "Aerial monitoring is being conducted, and it has shown that whole villages have washed away, animals have drowned and grain storages have washed away," said Latifur Rehman, spokesman for the Provincial Disaster Management Authority. "The destruction is massive and devastating." The death toll from the flooding has risen to 903 people, said Mujahid Khan, the head of rescue services for the Edhi Foundation, a private charity. The worst hit areas have been the districts of Swat and Shangla, where more than 400 people have died, he said. The disaster comes as the residents of Swat are still trying to recover from a major battle between the army and the Taliban last spring that caused widespread destruction and drove some 2 million people from their homes. About a million of those people are still displaced. Authorities have deployed 43 military helicopters and over 100 boats to try to rescue some 27,300 people still trapped by the floods, said Rehman, the disaster management spokesman. At least 115 people are still reported missing in Swat and Shangla, he said. As rivers swelled in the northwest, people sought ever-shrinking high ground or grasped for trees and fences to avoid getting swept away. Buildings simply crumbled into the raging river in Kalam, a town in the northern part of the Swat Valley, local TV showed. "All efforts are being used to rescue people stuck in inaccessible areas and all possible help is being provided to affected people," said Rehman. But some residents stepped up their criticism of the government's response on Sunday. "The flood has devastated us all, and I don't know where my family has gone," said Hakimullah Khan, a resident of Charsadda town who complained the government has not helped him search for his missing wife and three children. "Water is all around and there is no help in sight," said Khan. The military has deployed 30,000 army troops who had evacuated 19,000 trapped people by Saturday night, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. But the scale of the disaster has strained the resources of a government already grappling with a faltering economy and a brutal war against the Taliban. Even people like Sehar Ali Shah who were rescued by the government complained that authorities didn't provide shelter that would allow them to stay until the flood waters receded. "My son drowned, but I don't see the government taking care of us," said Shah after returning to his half-submerged house in the city of Nowshera. "The government has not managed an alternate place to shift us." Authorities have recovered more than 400 bodies from Swat and Shangla, but the collection effort has been hampered by mud and debris from destroyed houses, said Khan, the Edhi Foundation representative. The floods have caused an acute shortage of fruits and vegetables in the northwest because many of the hardest hit areas were the key centers of production, said Khan. The threat of disease loomed as well as some evacuees arrived in camps with fever, diarrhea and skin problems. "There is now a real danger of the spread of waterborne diseases like diarrhea, asthma, skin allergies and perhaps cholera in these areas," said Shaharyar Bangash, the head of operations in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa for World Vision, a major international humanitarian group. A variety of nations and aid organizations have begun to mobilize a response to the flood disaster. The U.S. delivered 380,000 food packages, four rescue boats and two water filtration units to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said Rehman, the group's spokesman. "This is much needed stuff in the flood-affected areas and we need more of it from the international community," said Rehman. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has also announced it will provide 12 prefabricated steel bridges to temporarily replace some of the spans damaged by the water.

Chelsea Clinton Says 'I Do' and Marries Marc Mezvinsky

Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton married her longtime boy friend investment banker Marc Mezvinsky in a ceremony today that was marked by strict secrecy and what her parents said was "overwhelming emotion." The wedding took place in Rhinebeck, N.Y., a picturesque town along the Hudons River, on a warm summer evening. "Today, we watched with great pride and overwhelming emotion as Chelsea and Marc wed in a beautiful ceremony at Astor Courts, surrounded by family and their close friends," the former president and the current secretary of state said in a statement released after the wedding. "We could not have asked for a more perfect day to celebrate the beginning of their life together, and we are so happy to welcome Marc into our family. On behalf of the newlyweds, we want to give special thanks to the people of Rhinebeck for welcoming us and to everyone for their well-wishes on this special day," they said. The ceremony was conducted by a rabbi and a reverend as Chelsea Clinton is Methodist and Mezvinsky is Jewish. The couple read a poem by Leo Marks titled, "The Life I Have," according to the family. The short poem includes the stanza, "The love that I have/ Of the life that I have/ Is yours and yours and yours."